Hopeful rivals set for Champagne rematch

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Trainer Steve Asmussen
Steve Asmussen

Jackie’s Warrior will have to confirm form from the Grade 1 Runhappy Hopeful with Reinvestment Risk in order to maintain an unbeaten record in the $300,000 Champagne at Belmont Park on Saturday.

Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Jackie’s Warrior had more than two lengths in hand last month at Saratoga when holding off the Chad Brown-trained Reinvestment Risk.

The winner registered a 95 Beyer Speed Figure – the highest number recorded by a two-year-old this year in the United States.

The son of Maclean’s Music won his stakes debut in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special on August 7th at the Spa over six furlongs, having opened up his career with a stalking success at Churchill Downs previously over five furlongs.

Jackie’s Warrior has been getting to know the Belmont Park track, breezing a half-mile in 50.54 seconds on Sunday.

“He handles everything well,” said Asmussen’s Belmont Park-based assistant trainer Toby Sheets, who doesn’t harbour any fears going up in distance for a one-turn mile at Belmont Park this weekend.

“Just like his races are, that’s how he is. He’s done everything very professionally and he’s very straightforward. I don’t see the mile being an issue at all.”

Jockey Joel Rosario, who guided Practical Joke to a 2016 Champagne win, is set to return in the saddle and Jackie’s Warrior will break from stall four.

Midnight Bourbon, who was a recent second in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs over a mile, will also represent Asmussen and will be ridden by Jose Ortiz from gate six.

If Reinvestment Risk can overturn his Saratoga defeat behind Jackie’s Warrior he’ll give trainer Brown and owners Klaravich Stables their third Champagne victory.

Reinvestment Risk posted a 90 Beyer figure in that contest, matching his debut performance which yielded a wild-margin victory at the Spa over next-out winner Olympiad.

Irad Ortiz Jr. remains in the plate for the Champagne, where Reinvestment Risk is drawn between the Asmussen duo of Jackie’s Warrior and Midnight Bourbon in gate five. His trainer is also forecasting better to come now upped in distance.

“He’s doing super. I’m looking forward to getting him out another furlong. He’ll have no problem with more distance,” Brown said.

A six-runner field is assembling for the Champagne with Run Casper Run, Civil War and Ambivalent – the only maiden in the field – joining Reinvestment Risk and Midnight Bourbon in attempting to claim the unbeaten record of Jackie’s Warrior.

The Grade 1 Champagne is one of four Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ qualifying events at Belmont Park on Saturday and offers an automatic entry to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on November 6th at Keeneland.

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